Archive for: April, 2016

Who's to blame for Sci-Hub? Librarians, of course!

Apr 29 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

And by blame, I mean "blame."

Yesterday the flagship journal of the AAAS, Science, published a series of feature and editorial articles on Sci-Hub, the unauthorized article sharing site.

Overall, the articles are pretty good descriptions of the Sci-Hub phenomenon and relatively even-handed, especially coming from one of the big society publishers like AAAS.

There was one bit in the main article, Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone, that really stuck in my craw. Basically, Sci-Hub -- and all that article piracy -- is librarians' fault.

And for all the researchers at Western universities who use Sci-Hub instead, the anonymous publisher lays the blame on librarians for not making their online systems easier to use and educating their researchers. “I don’t think the issue is access—it’s the perception that access is difficult,” he says.

Fortunately it was countered, in the true "give both sides of the story" style of mainstream journalism, by another quote, this time from a librarian.

“I don’t agree,” says Ivy Anderson, the director of collections for the California Digital Library in Oakland, which provides journal access to the 240,000 researchers of the University of California system. The authentication systems that university researchers must use to read subscription journals from off campus, and even sometimes on campus with personal computers, “are there to enforce publisher restrictions,” she says.

But of course, I couldn't let it go. Anderson's response is perfectly fine but somehow there just wasn't enough rage and exasperation in it. So I stewed about it over night and tweeted up a tweetstorm of rage this morning, with the idea that if the rant was well-received I would capture the text as part of a blog post.

For what it's worth, the tweets did go viral, or at least "viral" in the sense that anything in the library/scholarly communications world can go viral. At last check, there were several hundred Twitter notifications generated by the tweets and Twitter Analytics tells me that my day's tweeting has generated well over 100,000 impressions.

So, here it is, cleaned up a bit for readability.

Twitter rant on Sci-Hub article “Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone” in recent @sciencemagazine initiating in 3...2...1...

Do you want to know who’s my Worst Person in the World right now? (OK, not really worst person in the world, that would be Donald Trump, but schol comm/libraries microcosm worst person)?

It’s the Anonymous Publisher quoted in this Science article by John Bohannon: Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone.

The problem? They basically blame the Sci-Hub debacle (or at least debacle from the publishers’ perspective) on librarians. Yes, librarians are causing massive piracy of paywalled articles.

Let me quote:

And for all the researchers at Western universities who use Sci-Hub instead, the anonymous publisher lays the blame on librarians for not making their online systems easier to use and educating their researchers "I don’t think the issue is access—it’s the perception that access is difficult," he says.

What an Anonymous Coward. If you’re going to piss all over the people who sign the checks that keep your business running, you should at least have the guts to sign your name and take some responsibility.

Are our systems difficult? Aren’t you publishers the ones that “break” the hyperlink ethos of the web by creating the paywalls in the first place? And aren’t you the ones who have a different interface created by each company that people have to learn?

Google and Google Scholars are the tools most scholars use to find papers and they bypass searching systems. What those researchers are finding hard to deal with is YOUR set of barriers and Tower of Babel systems across publishers. We’re trying to make it better, you're trying to make it worse because that’s how you make your money.

As for educating our researchers -- we do, or at least we try to. You try explaining to a young researcher how the one thing that doesn’t work like the rest of the web is finding journals. Proxy servers, VPNs, Interlibrary Loans systems, content aggregators, library discovery systems, one hack or barrier after another imposed by YOU.

No wonder they use Sci-Hub, which does work like the rest of the web.

And let’s talk about, "it’s the perception that access is difficult." No, the perception isn’t that access is difficult, it’s the reality that the friction your exploitative business model imposes on the scientific enterprise is what makes access more difficult than it should be.

Do librarians share some of the blame for the mess that is scholarly communications? Of course we do. All the stakeholder groups share some of the blame. But targeting librarians, easily the least powerful stakeholder group, as the main cause of piracy is the pinnacle of hubris and a classic blame-deflection strategy.

"Look, it’s the fault of the people least able to defend themselves or actually effect change!"


Dear Anonymous Coward, please reveal yourself so we can discuss when academia put librarians in charge.

By the way, my more complete thoughts on Sci-Hub and a list of links here: The Sci-Hub story so far: Main event or sideshow?

Unhinged rant ended.

I would like to re-iterate that my beef here isn't so much with the set of articles in Science as a whole, but rather with the Anonymous Publisher themselves. While the Anonymous Publisher is perhaps not representative of anything or anyone other than themselves, the spirit of their remarks has certainly struck a chord with librarians and scholars and seems to be at least somewhat indicative of how librarians see their relationships with publishers.

3 responses so far

Around the Web: The math the planet relies on isn’t adding up right now and more on the science and politics of climate change

One response so far

The Leap Manifesto blows up Canadian politics: The story so far

Apr 16 2016 Published by under Canada, climate change, environment, Science in Canada

Or at least a certain corner of Canadian politics. For some definitions of "blow up."

For those not followong Canadian politics, our more-or-less socialist party, The New Democratic Party, recently held a policy convention where they also held a leadership review vote. The current leader, Tom Mulcair, lost the vote and as a result the NDP will be spending the next two years or so looking for a new leader.

What's significant from our point of view here is why he lost the vote. While the results of the last Federal election certainly played a role, the more proximate cause was a battle of sorts between the pragmatists and the idealists within the party. Inspired by Bernie Sanders and his run at the Democratic nomination in the current round of presidential elections in the US, the idealists are looking for a firmer and more pronounced progressive platform compared to the more centrist platform in the last couple of election cycles.

To complicate matters, pigs flew and hell froze over last year and the current government of the Province of Alberta (i.e. the most conservative province, both large-C and small-c) is NDP. The premier of oil-sands-dependent Alberta is Rachel Notley and from her point of view, the Federal NDP embracing the anti-fossil Fuel Leap Manifesto makes it a lot harder for her and her government to maneuver in the long and medium term and hopefully shift Alberta's economy away from such radical dependence on oil and gas production.

Which brings us to The Leap Manifesto itself. Brainchild of activists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, it's a rather breathtaking document calling for a complete retooling of the Canadian economy. You can see the text below. It's quite breathtaking in the way it call for a complete do-over. Though when you look at it closely and get past the "demands" and manifestoiness of it all, its basically a fairly modest program for just doing what needs to be done to save the planet.

Personally, I'm still pondering exactly what I think of the situation. While it's obvious at a certain level that without the kind of action that the Manifesto recommends, we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radically warming planet. We need to leave an awful lot of the oil that is currently in the ground right there where it belongs. On the other hand, it's also pretty obvious that actually getting climate agreements signed and concrete action taken isn't as easy as publishing a manifesto. Joining the worlds of idealistic activism with cold-hearted political calculation is never easy. Does something like the Leap Manifesto make that easier or harder? Does embracing the Manifesto sideline the NDP to the point where it can't make any practical difference or does it help them galvanize the true will of the people and build a newer more humane and environmentally responsible Canadian political culture?

The answers to those questions are above my pay grade.

The Leap Manifesto itself is here. Also worth reading is their document We Can Afford The Leap by Bruce Campbell, Seth Klein, and Marc Lee.

The text of the Manifesto follows.

We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.

These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

Canada is not this place today— but it could be.

We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.

So we need to leap.

This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap”. Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades[1]; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy[2].

We demand that this shift begin now.

There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.

The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems.
As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages and keeping much-needed revenue in communities. And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.

Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding.

A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply – as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects. Rebalancing the scales of justice, we should ensure immigration status and full protection for all workers. Recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change — primary drivers of the global refugee crisis — we must welcome refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.

Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities – and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.

Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970’s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today.

We declare that “austerity” – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.

The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.

One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born.

Those dreams go well beyond this document. “We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation”. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities.

Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live.

The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.

It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become – and decide to change.
And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.

Now is the time for boldness.

Now is the time to leap.


[1]Sustainable Canada Dialogues. (2015). Acting on climate change: Solutions from Canadian scholars. Montreal, QC: McGill University

[2]Jacobson, M., et al. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy 39:3 (2011)

Here's the story so far, from when the Manifesto was announced during the 2015 election until today. I'm including the full range of commentary here, positive, negative, from the left, right and the whole spectrum in between. I haven't tried to be comprehensive, especially with items from the 2015 election period.


Of course, this list isn't meant to be complete. However, if I've left out anything that's particularly worth noting, please let me know in the comments.


Update 2016.04.24. Numerous items added, bringing the story up to April 24th. Some stragglers added as well.

3 responses so far

Friday Fun: To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma -- Crowdfunding the Strangest Band of All Time

Apr 15 2016 Published by under friday fun, music mondays, Uncategorized

Magma, the strangest rock band of all time, needs you to help finance a documentary film about their life and work.

So here goes. Up until a year or so ago I'd never heard of the French prog rock band Magma, or at least their music had never penetrated my consciousness. But last year while spending the month of May in Paris, I visited a bunch or record stores (and book stores and comic stores...) and noticed records and CDs by this band Magma prominently displayed, like I should know who they are or something. It took me a while to notice enough that I forced myself to dig a bit deeper and read up about them online and maybe listen to a bit of their music. I liked it, for sure, but didn't really get all that excited. Prog rock isn't really my thing. But earlier this year I discovered their off-shoot band One Shot -- who have a much more jazz rock/fusion sound -- gave Magma another listen. But again, not too much of an impact yet.

And then I attended Magma's concert here in Toronto as part of their Endless Tour....the only other musical experience I can recall that was even stranger and more compelling was a Sun Ra concert I attended way back in the late 1980's in Montreal. I was blown away, which was not bad for -- at the very last minute -- deciding to attend a concert by a band I really didn't know all that much about.

Sinuous and pulsating, their music is a kind of hybrid of the intense, ecstatic jazz of John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders and the over-the-top operatic bombast of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. You know, the music that always plays in horror movies as the gates of hell open and a monster emerges to devour all mankind.

Of course, Magma's lyrics are sung/chanted in the the language created by founder Christian Vander: Kobaïan. With a cosmic storyline about refugees fleeing a environmentally devastated Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Created by Vander in the late 1960s, Magma is truly as unique as unique gets. Other bands say they are unique, Magma lives it.

Fast forward to 2-16. Some dedicated fans from Vancouver want to make a documentary film about Magma and they've setup a Kickstarter (running until April 27th) to raise a bit of the money they need to finance the project. That Kickstarter is here. Let's support a film about a truly unique artist with a vision like none other.

As a bit of supplemental reading, here are a few cool bits I've found explaining the Magma phenomenon.

No responses yet

My new project launching today: The Quisling Qourner: A group blog on the library/publisher relationship

Reader Beware: Please note the date of publication of this post.

It's been really gratifying over the last year to see how my DSCaM scholarly communications empire has grown. From it's small beginnings, Dupuis Science Computing & Medicine has craved out a small but important niche in the discount APC publishing community.

And I really appreciate how the scholarly communications community has encouraged my career progression from publisher of a journal at Elsevier to Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada to last year's huge launch of DSCaM.

And the DSCaM empire grows.

This year I would like to announce the launch of a major new initiative: The Quisling Qorner: A Group Blog on the Library/Publisher Relationsship.

I like to think of this new blogging community as being a fellow traveller with the longstanding Scholarly Kitchen blog. As well, we'd like to welcome the brand new In the Open: Libraries, Scholarship, and Publishing blog to the scholarly communications group blog family. While the Scholarly Kitchen tends to take the publisher's side of things and IO seems headed more towards a bias in the library direction, I think the QQ has it's own important niche.

And that niche would be the firm belief that the library side and the publisher side of the story are really the same tale, that libraries and publishers should be friends and colleagues of the highest order, that we are essentially on the same side of all the important issues in scholarly communication, that our interests are so intrinsically and explicitly tied together that they are essentially the same.

Publishers are librarians' best friends, they know what's good for us and we should just follow their lead in important matters.

Heaven knows, as librarians we've enjoyed so much publisher hospitality at conferences -- the wine! the cheese! the free pens! -- that it's really time for us to give back. There have been too many years of tragic misunderstanding and animosity between the two communities.

And repairing that damaged relationship will be the role of The Quisling Qorner. I've invited a plethora of the brightest lights in librarianship, some well known, some up-and-comers, to contribute their thoughts about how we can bring librarians and publishers closer together. I've also invited friends and colleagues in the scientific and publishing communities to weight in on some of those same issues as well a provide of broader perspective of how libraries and librarians can serve their interests exclusively.


Finally, I'd like to announce the first set up amazing posts that I'm publishing today. I'm a firm believer that any new blogging project needs to launch with enough initial content to draw people in and keep them reading.

So here goes -- the first set of posts, all by shining lights in the library/publisher interface universe!

And here's a few titles for forthcoming posts, all either written and in the pipeline or under development by the authors!

  • Paywalled Journals Are the Best, Only the Best, They Are HUUUUUUGE, I'll Build a Wall Around Them So Only the Good Scientists Can Read My Articles and Make Science Great Again by Donald Trump
  • PLoS Should Buy a Majority Stock in Elsevier: Here's Why by Roberta Eksevierian
  • Why APCs Are the One True Way Forward for Publisher Business Models by Cameron Neylon
  • Fire all Older Librarians and Give Their Salaries to Elsevier by Phillipa Springster
  • Thomson Reuter's ISI Makes all Citation Data Open Access in Bid to Thwart Allegations of Impact Factor Manipulations by Sharma Singh
  • Non-Disclosure Agreements as a Preferred Library Bargaining Tactic by Frances Taylor


And please consider this an open call. Everyone should go right ahead and pitch post ideas in the comments!

And the first authors' meeting will be in Stockholm in 2017! Paid for by all those fantastic publishers!

Update 2016.04.04. Laura Crossett's just published post was added to the list.

No responses yet